At first glance, Lionheart may seem to be nothing more than a simple point-and-click RPG at a time that PC RPGs are blooming in visuals and complexity. Beneath the simple façade, however, lies an intriguing title that has story and scenario as its central strengths.
The game takes place in the year 1588 A.D., but it is not the Renaissance that we all know and love. In this alternate history, the world was turned upside-down by an event that occurred during the Third Crusade, known as the Disjunction. This cataclysmic happening brought forth magic and monsters into the world. The Inquisition has built on the people's fear of the supernatural to seize control of Europe and unleash a bloody campaign against all things magical. Enter the hero, who may or may not be a descendent of Richard the Lionheart. It's up to the player which side the hero will take, and with that backstory and shameless cameos from Renaissance historical figures, it's bound to be an interesting adventure.
The quest takes place primarily in Spain and France, with small visits to England and Eastern Europe. The plot is non-linear in nature and the player(s) can join any of the very-cool factions: The Inquisition, the Knights Templar, or the Saladin (who are apparently a group of secret magic users, rather than followers of the famous Kurd). Although Lionheart is in essence a one-player game, there is a co-op mode that features up to four players. NPCs may also join the party, however their stay will always be very short.
In terms of the experience system, Lionheart closely resembles the Fallout games, which most players would agree is a very SPECIAL series. Yes, Lionheart uses the SPECIAL system as well, resulting in a similarity that gave the game its original moniker of Fallout Fantasy. SPECIAL is an acronym for Strength, Perception, Endurance, Charisma, Intelligence, Agility, and Luck. All of the player's skills are related to these attributes, and they affect how the skills increase at level up. In addition, the player can select "tag skills." This designation gives them double the increase. Overall, there are 30 skills and 40 welcome little "perks," which arrive irregularly at level up. They include such effects as the ability to carry a larger inventory.
With magic so crucial to the storyline, it's not surprising to see that there is a plethora of magical abilities available to the player - over 60, in fact. They fall under three basic types: attack, the Inquisition-sanctioned curative, and miscellaneous.
Another big part of Lionheart is the character creation - the amount of choice available to the player rivals most MMORPGs. There are four races to adopt: Feralkin, Human Pureblood, Democyn, and Sylvan (in order of least magically inclined to most). The races are differentiated by more than appearance and basic attributes. They have "traits" that bestow various benefits and disadvantages, and they have different rates of learning perks. The player can also get down to specific detail in each aspect of their avatar's appearance and, unlike most games, these details are not merely decorative. Rather, they are crucial in earning the trust of NPCs. The general populace is still highly suspicious of those with magical blood in them (reverse Muggle discrimination), but by carefully manipulating traits a Sylvan can be made to look pureblood enough as to foster normal treatment. Carefully weighing all the available options before starting the game seems like a good idea.
Battle is a very simple, real-time process that is given some depth by the intelligent AI, and also by the ability to target different parts of the enemy. Hurting different parts of the foe has predictable advantages, but it could be hard to target the small character detail under pressure. The game does boast an easy and "intuitive" interface, so that should help. Lionheart's large arsenal of spells allows for many combos, so creative players will have an advantage. The game has about fifty enemy types, which isn't that bad, when you think of it.
The graphics, unfortunately, can't be thought away. They are obviously small and dark, and the 3/4 overhead perspective does nothing to excite. Still, the 3D characters do blend in well with the 2D pre-rendered backgrounds. Another potential pitfall is the system of randomly generated items, which could have a negative effect on difficulty.
For those who love history, Lionheart is a dream come true. Prepare to spend some quality time seeing where your carefully built character goes.